Are you working from home? Are you new to it? Are the days running together yet? Are you ready to defenestrate your computer, your spouse, your kids, your dog aaaand yourself? Well, I have three steps that may be able to help you prevent that. Let’s go back eight years to 2012, when Superstorm Sandy destroyed my town in New York. Similar to our current crisis, this natural disaster forced me to start working from home. It was sudden. It was unexpected. It was necessary. I adapted because I had to, and you will too. You may even love it like I came to, and make it a way of life. I’m going to tell you how I made this transition, with the hope that it may help some of you to improve your experience with working from home.
When I was first home-bound, life was a bit of a mess. I had no idea what day of the week it was, or honestly even what day it was! My husband once woke up from a nap and asked me what time it was, and I told him, but I had to look out the window to find out if it was AM or PM.
You might think step 1 to working well from home is to figure out where to set up your desk, but it’s actually coming up with your routine. The key is having the right mindset and the right environment. If you can get into the right mindset, it really helps, no matter where you are working. Pick a time and get up and get dressed consistently every morning. You want coffee? A run? Do you normally do yoga or work out? Get your kids ready for the day? Whatever your normal morning routine is before work, keep doing it. This is a major part of what keeps the days from running together and what transitions you into work mode. I tried not getting dressed, and at one point, my husband suggested that I at least change into different pajamas, and I have to say, designated work pajamas were a great choice. This routine is important for the end of the day as well. Choose a cutoff time, and that’s it for the day. You’re done with work at that time. Of course there are times where it makes sense, and there will always be exceptions, but if you start regularly working outside of your normal hours, it can easily become a rabbit hole of “What’s work and what’s life?” and the days will run together and you don’t want that.
Once you’ve taken care of getting into work mode, you move onto step 2: you need to pick out the right space. Some of you may have a spare room that you can use as an office, but some of you are going to have to find somewhere to shove your desk. When I first started working from home, I lived in my husband’s parents’ basement in New York. For those of you who are unfamiliar, that means it was small—-very small. We had a tiny kitchen, a bedroom, and a living room. To paint you this picture, after we moved out, his parents turned our bedroom into their closet and our living room into their bedroom. Not only did I not have room for a desk, I didn’t even have a desk. I had to sit on the couch and work from the coffee table. This is when I realized that working well from home is highly about the environment. If all you have is a couch and a coffee table, you pick a spot on the couch that is your “work spot” and you only sit there when you are working. This helps it to feel different from your normal day. If you have the ability to put a desk somewhere, put it somewhere that makes that space feel different from how you normally view that room. When we moved to Florida, I finally got a desk, but it had to go in my bedroom. That doesn’t seem great, right? Wake up in the bedroom, work all day in the bedroom, go to sleep in the bedroom? I set the desk up in a corner of the room I don’t typically spend time in, so the view was different. This was my “work view” and when I sat at my desk I felt like I was in a different space. Get a room divider, hang up a sheet, spin your desk to face the window or wall and put your back to the room. There are a lot of ways you can adjust your space to make it feel different.
The major thing you are missing out on when working from home is step 3: the human interactions. Sure, you are having phone calls and meetings, but you aren’t making friends or meeting new people. You don’t have a chance to run into someone new in the hallway, or stop by this cool new place you saw on your commute. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you need to get yourself a community of some sort. A book club, a Dungeons & Dragons group… whatever it is, you need one. If you are reading this, you are interested in the TarValon.Net community. We are pros at keeping in touch remotely, so congratulations, you have made excellent progress with step 3!
I may have a head start on this social distancing thing, but it is still impacting even me. I can’t wear my work pajamas. Now that everyone is home, they all want to video chat, and so I have to wear real clothes. They’re home and for some reason, I have to get dressed. My coworkers and friends who are not used to being home-bound are all working on their step 3. I have more invitations and expectations to join virtual activities than ever in my life and it is exhausting. Happy hours, watch parties, lunch meetings, game nights- I am doing more socializing now than I did before social distancing. If this is happening to you as well, don’t let it overwhelm you- don’t feel obligated to participate in everything you’re invited to. … except TarValon.Net events- you should keep coming to those!
If you are struggling with this enormous change in your life, I hope these notes about my experience can help to make your experience better. Stick to your routine, create a good space, and keep engaging on TarValon.Net. Good luck!